Smoky Caramel Popcorn

I didn’t have as much time to bake this year with our new little roommate to tend to, but it wouldn’t have felt like a holiday season without making SOME sort of treats.  I had to make the usual batch of Furikake Chex Mix and tried out a David Chang/Momofuku cookie recipe (coming soon).  My mother-in-law volunteered to watch Mia on Black Friday so that Kev and I could go out on a date, and we took her up on it.  When we mentioned we were thinking of going to brunch and a movie, she asked us to pick up a tub of her favorite Arclight caramel corn.  With that in mind, I made a mental note to find a good candied popcorn recipe when Christmas came around.  I wanted to make something a little different and came across this recipe for a Smoky Candied Popcorn on Kitchn.
The amount of chili powder in the recipe is perfect – it’s not spicy at all and just adds a subtle hint of smoky flavor.  I followed the recipe to a tee the first time, and it was delicious.  However, I wanted to take the smokiness level up a notch without the possibility of creating spiciness by having too much chili powder.   With my newfound love of smoked paprika, I added a quarter teaspoon in to the dry mix.  And who doesn’t like a good salted caramel?  I added another 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt to the recipe too.  This popcorn is like crack.  I’ve made it three times in the last few weeks and can’t get enough of it!
Hope you can enjoy it too!  Here’s the recipe, as adapted from Kitchn:
INGREDIENTS:
  • 10 cups popped popcorn (8 cups if you like your popcorn more candied)
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Line a large (18×13-inch) baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone pan liner. Place the popcorn in a large bowl. Mix together the chili powder, smoked paprika, baking soda, and salt in a separate tiny bowl and set aside.
  2. In a heavy-bottom pan over medium-high heat, combine the sugar, light corn syrup, and butter. Cook 10 minutes, occasionally swirling or stirring with a rubber spatula, until it all melts into an amber-hued caramel and pulls away a bit from the side of the pan. This mixture will be super hot, so be careful not get any on your skin.

    Caramel Caramelizing
  3. Remove from the heat and carefully whisk in the chili powder, smoked paprika, baking soda, and salt — the mixture will bubble up, so be careful.

    Whisk in Spices, Baking Soda, and Salt
  4. Quickly pour the caramel over the popcorn and toss with a rubber spatula to evenly coat all the popcorn kernels. Once coated, carefully spread the popcorn onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, separating any large clumps that came together.
  5. Let cool 15 minutes if serving immediately or 2 to 3 hours to cool completely before wrapping and gifting. Store in an airtight container up to 3 days.

    Smoky Caramel Popcorn
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Instagram Lately – Holiday Delectables

I have been posting a ton of recipes made in our new kitchen lately, and have been hit or miss with including links to the recipes, so here they all are!

My round-up from Thanksgiving this year:

Mini Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Oreo Crust
Mini Brown Sugar Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Oreo Crust

 

Chicken Apple Sausage Cornbread Stuffing
Chicken Apple Sausage Cornbread Stuffing

This year, instead of using all chicken apple sausage, I used half hot Italian and half chicken apple sausage to try and balance the sweetness of the cornbread.

Butternut Squash Soup with Scallops and Garlicky Swiss Chard
Butternut Squash Soup with Scallops and Garlicky Swiss Chard

I made the soup this time without the apple, and double the carrots and celery.

Apple and Pear Galette with Walnut Streusel
Apple and Pear Galette with Walnut Streusel

And here’s my December round-up:

Apple Pie Cookies
Apple Pie Cookies
Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Erica's Birthday Cupcakes - Chocolate Stout Cupcake with Salted Caramel Frosting
Erica’s Birthday Cupcakes – Chocolate Stout Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Frosting

I used the cupcake recipe from the Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes.  Being the practical baker that I am, I didn’t want to buy a whole 6-pack of Guinness since we’re not Guinness drinkers at home. So I bought a bottle of Old Rasputin Russian Imperial Stout, which worked great except I didn’t realize the bottle was 9% ABV which is over twice what Guinness is.  The cupcake was a teensy bit more beer flavored than the Guinness Cupake usually is, but it still tasted fine.  I used the frosting recipe from the Samoas Cupcakes, and added 1 cup extra powdered sugar to thick it a bit. Since I wasn’t dipping the cupcake in coconut flakes, I wanted to make the frosting a bit more substantial. It still wasn’t thick enough to pipe but it was delicious nonetheless.

 

Apple-and-Pear Galette with Walnut Streusel

I made mini brown sugar pumpkin cheesecakes with oreo crust this past Thanksgiving as one dessert per my uncle’s request for something with pumpkin. And my mom wanted something fruity, so I figured it would be great to take advantage of pears being in season.  However, I don’t like it when cooked pears get mushy.  I came across this recipe on Food & Wine magazine, and thought the addition of the apple and streusel would keep the galette’s texture interesting.

I was also super excited to roll out the dough on our gorgeous new countertop!  Thanks Johnny and the Expert Hardwood Flooring team!  These small joys are what life is all about.  At our old apartment, Kev and I didn’t have a lot of kitchen counter space and what little we had was right next to the sink and really the only prep space we had.

On the New Countertop!
On the New Countertop!

INGREDIENTS:

Crust:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2  cup ice water

    Crust Ingredients
    Crust Ingredients
Streusel:
  • 2/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
Filling:
  • 2 Granny Smith apples, halved, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 firm Bartlett pears, halved, cored and sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. MAKE THE CRUST In a food processor, pulse the 2 cups of flour with the salt. Add the butter and pulse until the pieces are the size of small peas. Sprinkle the water on top and pulse until the dough just comes together. Turn the dough out onto a work surface, gather up any crumbs and pat into a disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate until well chilled, 1 hour.

    Crumbly with Pea Size Clumps of Butter
    Crumbly with Pea Size Clumps of Butter
  2. MEANWHILE, MAKE THE STREUSEL Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread the walnuts in a pie plate and bake for about 8 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cool, then chop.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with the brown sugar and salt. Add the butter and, using your fingers, pinch it into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the walnuts and pinch the streusel into clumps. Refrigerate until chilled, about 15 minutes.
  4. MAKE THE FILLING Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the pears, 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, the salt and lemon juice. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out the dough to a 19-by-13-inch oval. Ease the dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Mound the filling in the center of the oval, leaving a 2-inch border. Sprinkle the streusel evenly over the fruit and fold the edge of the dough up and over the filling.

    Ready for the Oven
    Ready for the Oven
  5. Brush the crust with the egg wash and sprinkle evenly with granulated sugar. Bake the galette for 45 to 50 minutes, until the fruit is tender and the streusel and crust are golden brown. Let the galette cool. Dust with confectioners’ sugar, if using, before serving.
    Apple-and-Pear Galette with Walnut Streusel
    Apple-and-Pear Galette with Walnut Streusel

     

Sliced!
Sliced!

This was a big hit at Thanksgiving.  The tart crispness of the apple really complimented the sweet pear. My aunt hosted this year, so I had to let it cool and bring it over at room temp, but I would definitely recommend serving it a little warm with ice cream if you make it at home!

Lamb Burgers

In celebration of the long Fourth of July weekend, Kevin and I decided (albeit at the last minute) to make some good ol’ fashioned American hamburgers. I’m not sure if we went to the market at the exact twilight of ground meat outage and replenishment, but we somehow managed to go to a spot where they were completely out of ground beef, turkey, chicken, and bison.  Bison (our latest obsession; posts to come later) was what we really wanted for our burgers, but we somehow resigned to ground lamb. Not that anything is wrong with lamb, but it wasn’t exactly what eating at Murica’s birthday party is all about.

I found a recipe on Food & Wine and tailored it to serve the two of us, while also including a bit more zing by upping the herbs-to-meat ratio.  See the recipe as adapted below:

INGREDIENTS:

Lamb Burgers for two:

  • 3/4 lb ground lamb
  • 1/2 onion, minced
  • 1 garlic glove, minced
  • 1/2 T mint, finely chopped
  • 1/2 T flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 T dill, finely chopped (pull leaves only, don’t use thick stems)
  • Kosher salt and finely ground black pepper
  • 2 whole wheat pita bread (or hamburger bun if you prefer)
  • 2-3 leaves romaine lettuce
  • 4 paper-thin onion slices

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a medium bowl, lightly knead the ground lamb with the onion, garlic, mint, parsley and 1 scant teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Shape the meat into patties about 1/2 inch thick, and transfer them to a plate lined with plastic wrap. Lightly brush the burgers with olive oil.

    Herbalicious Lamb Patties
    Herbalicious Lamb Patties
  2. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil on medium heat, and cook the lamb patties for about 6 minutes on each side. You can also grill the lamb burgers for about 12 minutes, turning once, for medium meat. I was worried about overcooking the lamb, so I stuck a meat thermometer into the patty and cooked til it hit about 140 degrees for medium rare. The patty will continue to cook another 5 degrees once you take it off the pan too.
  3. Set the burgers on the pita breads and top them with the lettuce, tomato, onion and a spoonful of Yogurt-Cucumber Sauce. Fold the pitas over the burgers and serve right away, passing the remaining yogurt sauce alongside.

    Lamb Burgers
    Lamb Burgers

In my opinion, you can’t really have a lamb burger with ketchup and mustard, so I looked up a recipe for tzatziki.  The recipe below is also adapted from Food & Wine.  The version I made was chunkier (I upped the cucumber), lessened the amount of yogurt, and added dill and lemon juice.  I had nonfat Fage plain greek yogurt, and it came out on the thicker side. I would recommend a regular, non-Greek yogurt to give it a more “sauce-y” consistency.  This made about 1/2 cup, which is probably more than enough for two people.  I wouldn’t recommend making too much in advantage and eating leftovers, because the lemon juice and salt will pickle the herbs and cucumber.  It’ll taste like a strange creamy dill pickle sauce (I learned the hard way).

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Persian cucumber, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
  • 1/3 C plain yogurt
  • 1/2 T extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 T finely chopped mint
  • 1 t finely chopped dill
  • 2 lemon wedges’ worth of lemon juice
  • Finely ground black pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Using a melon baller or small spoon, scoop out the seedy center of the cucumber. Dice the cucumber. Squeeze the excess liquid from the cucumber without mashing it (skip if using Greek yogurt).
  2. In a small bowl, using the back of a spoon, mash the garlic with the salt to a paste. Stir in the yogurt, olive oil, mint, dill, and lemon juice. Add the cucumber, season with pepper and serve.
Tzatziki
Tzatziki

We also “needed” a salty component for our burger, so I drummed up a sundried tomato tapenade.  The following will makes about 1/3 cup:  Place 6 pitted kalamata olives and 1/4 cup sundried tomatoes into a food processor and pulse to chop roughly. If you’re using dry sundried tomatoes (I used the ones from Trader Joe’s – my fav!), pour 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil while pulsing the food processor a few more times to combine.  All that being said, the thought of cleaning a food processor after all the chopping/cleaning I’d been doing that day was dreadful, so I chopped everything by hand and then whisked in the olive oil after.

Sundried Tomato Olive Tapenade
Sundried Tomato Olive Tapenade

And that my friends was our big fat Greek Fourth of July meal!  We celebrated 4th of July with Kevin’s mom over the weekend as well, and she made banh mi sandwiches for us and I cobbled together an Italian pasta salad to bring.  It really was a hodge podge of cuisines, but I guess that’s really what eating like an American is all about – celebrating a bit of everything!

Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese

We’re approaching the halfway mark to Thanksgiving, so why not do a little #TBT (Throw Back Thanksgiving!) post?  Kevin and I hosted this past Thanksgiving for my mom’s side of the family, and in my search for new belt-loosening inspiration, I came across this indulgent recipe for Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese on Brown Eyed Baker.  I’ve always been a sucker for savory dishes with a hint of sweetness, but I also love naughty dishes that pretend to be healthy by adding a vegetable.  Ladies and gents, don’t make this if you’re looking for a healthy alternative to mac and cheese.  It’s mac and cheese. It’s not supposed to be good for you. That being said, this recipe is DELICIOUS and just as decadent as any good mac and cheese recipe.

Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese
Butternut Squash and Bacon Mac and Cheese

Here is the recipe as adapted from Brown Eyed Baker:

INGREDIENTS:

  • 12 slices thick-cut peppered bacon, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1/2 butternut squash, finely diced
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 8 T unsalted butter, divided
  • 4 T all-purpose flour
  • 3 C whole milk
  • 8 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (about 2 cups), divided
  • 16 ounces cavatappi pasta (or shaped pasta of your choice)
  • 1 C breadcrumbs (I like panko)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Butter a 9×13-inch casserole dish. Heat a large pot of water over high heat for the pasta; cover.
  2. In a 12-inch cast iron skillet (or other heavy, stainless skillet), fry the bacon until crisp. Remove the bacon to a towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease.

    BACONNN!!
    BACONNN!!
  3. Adjust the heat to medium-low and add the butternut squash and onion to the bacon grease. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the squash and onion are browned and cooked through. Once cooked, use the back of a wooden spoon to mash up the mixture (it doesn’t have to be completely smooth – leave some chunks in for texture).

    Butternut Squash, Onions Cooking in Bacon Grease
    Butternut Squash, Onions Cooking in Bacon Grease
  4. Add the pasta to the boiling water and cook the pasta according to the box directions for al dente pasta (if your box doesn’t specify al dente, cook it for 1 to 2 minutes shorter than the time called for – it shouldn’t be cooked the whole way through). When the pasta is finished cooking, drain it in a colander.
  5. While the pasta is cooking, make the sauce. In a large saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, whisk in the flour and cook for about 1 minute, until the flour starts to brown a bit and smells nutty, whisking constantly. In a slow, steady stream, whisk in the milk. Allow the sauce to come to a simmer.
  6. Once the sauce comes to a simmer, stir in 6 ounces each of the Gruyere and cheddar cheeses, adding a handful at a time and stirring with a wooden spoon until completely melted before adding the next handful. Season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

    Cheese Sauce
    Cheese Sauce
  7. Add the cooked, drained pasta, bacon and butternut squash mixture to the sauce. Stir with a wooden spoon until everything is completely combined and evenly distributed. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
  8. Melt the remaining 4 tablespoons butter. In a small bowl, mix the melted butter with the breadcrumbs.
  9. Sprinkle the macaroni and cheese with the remaining shredded cheeses. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top of the cheese.

    Sprinkle with Bread Crumbs and Remaining Cheese
    Sprinkle with Bread Crumbs and Remaining Cheese
  10. Bake until browned and bubbly, about 15 to 20 minutes. Allow to sit for 10 to 15 minutes before serving.

This is definitely one of my favorite mac and cheese recipes, even better than Alton Brown’s.

2015 Thanksgiving Spread
2015 Thanksgiving Spread

Here was the menu line-up with links to recipes where applicable:

APPS:

  • Crudité and Trader Joe’s hummus
  • Truffle mushroom crostini (I guessed at this, and it turned out well but I’ll have to try and retrace my steps in order to post a recipe for that later)
  • My Favorite Simple Kale Salad

MAINS/SIDES

  • Ham from Bristol Farms (courtesy of my mom)
  • Chicken Apple Sausage Cornbread Stuffing – this time using half sweet Italian and half spicy Italian chicken sausage instead of the chicken apple.  I actually think I like it better that way!
  • Brussels Sprouts and Bacon (tripled that recipe, without the kimchee).
  • This butternut squash and bacon mac and cheese
  • Zucchini casserole (courtesy of my aunt)
  • Mashed potatoes (courtesy of Kevin)

DESSERTS

Enjoy!